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Proper Progressive Christianity


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I know I haven’t seen all the discussions about the meaning of “progressive”. Various things will trigger my thoughts about what “progressive” or “liberal” means, which seems to be the same to me. “Pragmatic” would mean something else – whatever works. “Progressive” is in that direction, but which side of “pragmatic” is “progressive” on, more practical or less practical? If I look at the 8 points, they seem very practical, with an eye toward defining a church that is inclusive for many styles of faith and degrees of faith. Of course discussions here are often quite abstract, not much about the practicalities of anything. Which is more progressive?


One thing I’ve noticed is that Progressive Christianity leaves lots of questions open, questions like, “How do I live my life?” Christianity in general has a tension between two ways of answering that. One way is similar to Judaism and other moral systems, where there are rules and it’s up to us to follow them. One part of Christianity says those rules are exclusively in the Bible, from cover to cover. Liberals like me tend to like a version of that such as love God, love neighbors and love enemies, in other words love everyone, simple. That’s not the only division, though. Jesus and Paul teach how hard it is, even impossible, to follow the Law, resulting in this doctrine of imputed righteousness, where faith in Jesus substitutes for what we can’t do ourselves. While some interpret this as do the best you can and it will be OK, living by faith can mean much more than that. It can mean praying about everything you do, learning to perceive answers to those prayers, and being guided by the Spirit in various charismatic ways. As a liberal who lives by faith in that latter way, I know there are very few liberals who do. If there’s one in TCPC who does, I haven’t encountered that person.


It’s not that Progressive Christianity says one can’t be charismatic, as far as I can tell. The issue of how does one live by faith, if one even should, doesn’t seem to be addressed by discussions of Progressive Christianity. The most talked about declarations of Progressive Christianity, the 8 points, aren’t a comprehensive religion. I think it’s fair to say they are a system by which to have an inclusive church, not a religion. One could say people are then free on anything beyond the 8 points, but who really wants “progressive” to mean that? It might be progressive, but does “Christian” still mean anything then?


I’m sure there can be much discussion on what words mean and how loose those meanings should be. Is it fair, right or practical to put all of that onto Progressive Christianity? It’s so much simpler to talk about Progressive Christianity being a system, illustrated by the 8 points, by which a church can be inclusive. It would be easier the next time someone asks, “What is Progressive Christianity?” to answer that it is a system, illustrated by the 8 points, by which a church can be inclusive. I don’t expect agreement on such a thing. I just bring it up that there is this easy way compared to the hard way of many previous discussions.

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Well said, David.


I'd like to add a brief comment about Point Eight. The Jesus Seminar has a similar view:


"For Jesus, God's Kingdom is a modest affair, not obvious to the untutored eye. It offers little by way of earthly reward. Its demands are staggering. He apparently did not want it confused with traditional mundane hopes."

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